San Francisco Gets Serious About Earthquakes

Christchurch, New Zealand, after last February's 6.3 magnitude quake. Photo by Mark Lincoln for

Many of us in the Bay Area felt a series of sharp tremors on October 20 and 21 — coincidentally the same day that Oakland-based Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted would bring the Apocalypse. It might not be time for the Rapture just yet, but we do know the Big One is coming, and we want our buildings to be prepared.

Fortunately, so do the smart people in San Francisco City Hall. They’ve taken the good work developed as part of the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety and created an Earthquake Safety Implementation Program. Last week Mayor Ed Lee released a first draft of the program, a 30-year road map for strengthening San Francisco’s stock of privately owned buildings so that our city can be well situated to withstand a major earthquake.

The program includes 50 objectives that comprehensively address San Francisco’s building stock, but one of the most important is a plan to retrofit San Francisco’s “soft story” apartment buildings — those that have large openings like garage doors or storefront windows on the ground floor. These buildings house a substantial number of San Franciscans and are also very vulnerable to damage. SPUR has long called for a program of mandatory retrofits for soft-story buildings and enthusiastically endorses the Earthquake Safety Implementation Program.

Read San Francisco’s Earthquake Safety Implementation Program >>